Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Federal Lawsuits by Catholic Institutions Seek to Stop HHS Mandate

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Federal Lawsuits by Catholic Institutions Seek to Stop HHS Mandate

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * Forty-three Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals, social service agencies and other institutions filed suit in federal court May 21 to stop three government agencies from implementing a mandate that would require them to cover contraceptives and sterilization in their health plans.

"Through this lawsuit, plaintiffs do not seek to impose their religious beliefs on others," said one of the suits, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana by the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, diocesan Catholic Charities, St. Anne Home and Retirement Community, Franciscan Alliance, University of St. Francis and Our Sunday Visitor. "They simply ask that the government not impose its values and policies on plaintiffs, in direct violation of their religious beliefs."

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, whose archdiocese is among the plaintiffs, said the lawsuits were "a compelling display of the unity of the church in defense of religious liberty" and "a great show of the diversity of the church's ministries that serve the common good and that are jeopardized by the mandate."

"We have tried negotiations with the administration and legislation with the Congress--and we'll keep at it--but there's still no fix," the cardinal said. "Time is running out and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now."

Dolan also is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is not a party to the lawsuits.

Catholic organizations have objected to the contraceptive mandate since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it last Aug. 1. Unless they are subject to a narrow religious exemption or have a grandfathered health plan, employers will be required to pay for contraceptives and sterilizations as part of their health coverage.

In all, 12 lawsuits were filed simultaneously May 21 in various U. …

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